2016 Fantasy Recap
The New England Patriots continued their dominance of the NFL, ultimately winning their fifth Super Bowl since the turn of the century. The Patriots survived the early four-game suspension of Tom Brady, and never looked back once he returned. Despite missing those four games, Brady had one of the best seasons of his career. It clearly looked like Brady had a chip on his shoulder over the whole Deflategate nonsense. Some fantasy players were reluctant to take Brady in preseason drafts with the four-game suspension looming, but those that were patient enough reaped the rewards once he returned.
Head coach Bill Belichick has never been interested in your fantasy team, and never will be. However, in 2016 there were a few players on the Patriots roster that could be trusted from week-to-week, including a running back! LeGarrette Blount‘s 3.9 yards per carry weren’t blowing people away, but Blount finished the season with a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns. Despite not getting in the end zone that often, Julian Edelman maintained his worth at least in PPR formats. His strong late season push played a major factor in fantasy championships.
Ironically, the biggest fantasy disappointment in 2016 from New England was the first tight end taken off fantasy boards, Rob Gronkowski. Gronk battled injuries all season long but was eventually placed on IR with a back injury. He’ll look to bounce back, however, in 2017 and retake his place as the premier fantasy tight end. New faces and departing ones, the Patriots will be a heavy favorite to return to the Super Bowl in February for a chance to repeat as champions.
Key Additions and Losses
Quarterback Fantasy Outlook
What could I say that you don’t already know? Tom Brady may be the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL, and is without question, the best to ever come out as a sixth-round selection. The difference between this year and last year is there are no suspensions looming for Brady this year…not yet at least. Unless there’s another “gate” that comes out of New England between now and the regular season, Brady is a locked-in QB1 every week. Brady will turn 40 in August, but age doesn’t seem to matter to this guy. He could very well become the first over the hill quarterback to lead in all categories.
Running Back Fantasy Outlook
The leading rusher in touchdowns from a year ago, LeGarrette Blount, is no longer in the picture, but “next man up” seems to be the motto in New England. This offseason, New England went out and signed a couple of additional players to add to their backfield. Mike Gillislee looks to be the leading candidate among men, but it’s a crowded backfield, to say the least. The Patriots also added Rex Burkhead in free agency, who the team is very high on. Along with the new additions, New England still has the Super Bowl hero James White, and Dion Lewis, who has been a fantasy gem when healthy.
The backfield is just too crowded to feel confident in just one player every week. If I had to choose, my guess would be Gillislee based on the success he had behind LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. I won’t go as far as to say to avoid the Patriots backfield but tread carefully.
Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook
One of the biggest acquisitions New England made prior to the draft, and what probably had the rest of the league in a rage with the New Orleans Saints was when both teams agreed to send Brandin Cooks to New England in exchange for a first rounder. You can’t blame the Saints for taking the deal, but when it looks like you’re helping the Patriots get even better, you’re going to get some heat. Up until now, Brady has done it with players that nobody else seemed to want. Julian Edelman was originally a seventh round pick, and Chris “7-11” Hogan initially went undrafted. Both players shined throughout the postseason and played major contributors in completing New England’s comeback victory in the Super Bowl. Now Brady gets a complete player in Cooks to add to the equation. With Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola filling out the depth chart, this suddenly became a deep wide receiving corps.
Tight End Fantasy Outlook
Rob Gronkowski is the #1 tight end in fantasy sports, and it’s not even close. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce is the only formidable challenger for that title, but given the two offenses, it’s easy to see why people prefer Gronk. The only problem, however, is whether or not Gronk can remain healthy. In 2016, Gronk turned out to be a bust after playing in just half the season because of injuries, finishing with just 25 receptions and three touchdowns.
The good news is that Gronk appears to be at full strength now as he has been a full participant during the team’s OTAs. Injuries will always be a concern for Gronkowski, but that can be said for any player for that matter. Gronk will again go into the season as the #1 tight end and should be on everyone’s radar. All of this, and I didn’t even mention that the team managed to pry away Dwayne Allen from the Colts in exchange for a draft pick. Let that sink in for a moment.
Defensive Fantasy Outlook
A lot of talk goes on about New England’s offense (and for good reason), but their defense quietly continues to be one of the best in the league. In 2016, they gave up just 15.6 points per game, which led the league. They lost some players to free agency – most notably, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard – but in true Patriots fashion, they quickly filled those holes. The team acquired Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore at the start of free agency to upgrade their secondary. Then ahead of the NFL Draft, New England agreed to a deal with Carolina to acquire Kony Ealy, giving up practically nothing.
The Patriots are one of the most disciplined defenses in the league, and even though they’ve had a reputation of giving up a lot of yards, they know how to keep teams out of the end zone. On paper, this defense looks slightly better than last year’s team. Even though they may not excel in categories such as turnovers or sacks, they’re able to stay above average in relatively every category.